Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Grace Timeline

I realized after a round of questions from some friends and family that we had failed to explain the most important part of the Grace adventure: bringing her home!

This is what we do know:
1. We signed and returned our Letter of Acceptance officially accepting Grace. This document is now in China, and we are awaiting the CCAA (governing body in China in charge of all domestic and international adoptions) to give us Travel Approval. We could get this travel approval in two weeks or six weeks. Let's hope for two weeks, people.

2. We will get a "window" of when we might travel when we get our travel approval, but our official dates will not be ready until 7-10 days prior to departure. So much for cheap tickets!

3. Once we get travel approval, our agency here in Colorado will ask for an appointment at the US Consolate in Guangzhou, China. Grace will need a visa to enter the United States, and as the last step, this appointment sets up the entire itinerary of our trip.

4. We'll be in China for 14-16 days. Bret is going over early for business, and I am meeting him in Hong Kong. We'll tour Hong Kong and then move mainland to visit his work. Then, we are going to take the train to Nanchang. Our agency has strongly urged us against traveling on our own, but what's life without a little adventure. We'll be in Nanchang for about a week before heading to Guangzhou. Finally, somehow braving 24 hours of travel and flight time with a one year old, we'll make it back to the Hoosier state.

5. Grace will be a US citizen (the United States will not let her keep dual citizenship) the minute she steps on United States soil (which will probably be the airport in New Jersey!).

6. We could travel as early as late July... or as late as late August.

So, there's the run down of what the next few weeks hold for us. We are busy with load and loads of paperwork, visa applications and money wires. In addition, we have to have gifts for about ten different officials and orphanage workers, so I'm trying to get those together. I spend a lot of time researching other adoptive families who have traveled to Nanchang to make sure I have everything I need.

This sure isn't the most interesting post, but I hope it will quell the questions that seem to be popping up the most.

Monday, June 29, 2009

More Backyard Fun

We've had the playhouse for a few months now, so these pictures are a wee bit old, but you get the idea! Grant grills us chicken sandwiches all the time! But, for Grant, the water tubs are the hit!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Where's my pillow mint?

This weekend, we've been hosting some old friends at our home. Prior to their arrival on Friday, Erin informed me that she was going to do some cleaning around the house in preparation.

When I arrived home from work on Friday, our house was spotless. I mean SPOTLESS. All of the toys were gone. There were fresh sheets on the beds, and they had all been made. On the guest beds, there were little pillows with soaps and shampoos in those little bottles, just like a hotel. There was a little dessert buffet on the island in the kitchen, featuring cookies and a bunch of other foo-foo crap that no self respecting dude would eat if there were other options. It was immaculate.

Apparently you can convert a Rodeway Inn into a Hyatt in just under eight hours.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Backyard Fun

How do we pass the summer days until little miss Grace shows up? A makeshift waterslide... that's how!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

More Grace Information

I just accosted the FedEx man who pulled up to hand me the package with two more pictures of Grace and all of her translated health and life information. The information is from her seven month check up, so we're not sure how much of it is still relevant.

A few notes from the information:
1. Grace is said to love music (Daddy grinned), laugh out loud and smile readily.
2. It said Grace was a "deep sleeper." Rock on.
3. It warned that Grace was obstinate. That's my girl.
4. Grace is very small. On the US growth charts, she's in about the 5th percentile for height and weight. She's a peanut. Grant weighed at three months what Grace weighed at about eight months.
4. We found out that Grace has been in foster care since she was a week old. This news is beautiful news. It's bittersweet in that we will be pulling Grace from the only family she has known, a family that she has bonded with and has bonded with her. But, we also know that Grace knows how to attach, a problem for many kids who are in an institutionalized setting like an orphanage. We are so thankful to this family, a family who has loved Grace through all these months, feeding her, changing her, waking up in the wee hours with her, and playing with her, all the while knowing that she would be leaving one day. It's a sacrifice we cannot comprehend or repay, but it is one for which we are exceptionally grateful.

We will get an updated medical history (including information about when and where Grace was left by birthparents) in a few weeks. We should get some new pictures then as well.

But, today, we received two new pictures (from when she was seven months old), and I could just die at how sweet and cute she is! She's bundled up in layers and layers of clothes (a Chinese custom that sometimes translates to up to nine layers of clothes on kids), but, despite the layers of clothes, you can still tell that she's just the sweetest little angel!

I don't know what's up with the grapes (or the fact that the "beach" picture has: 1. animated pigs and mushrooms and 2. Grace dressed up in layers of very "unbeachy" clothes), but come on, you know she's the cutest thing ever! That little double chin, the "what the heck is going on here" stare, and those polka-dot penguin booties are just about the cutest things I have ever seen.

Monday, June 22, 2009


Grace MinWei Hawkins (pronounced min-way)

She is from Tonggu, a small village in the Jiangxi Provence of China. Her birthday was yesterday, June 21, so she's a year old.

And, here's the best part... her picture! This was taken back in January...

We are so thankful for all the love and support that many of you have given us over the years. We are thankful to our God who is the giver of such good gifts. We are in love beyond measure.

Not Funny

The phone just rang... and my heart stopped.

But, it was just card member services letting us know that we need to call them urgently as we might qualify for a lowered interest rate on our credit card.

Ring, Phone, Ring

We're expecting our referral phone call (and subsequent email with pictures) today. Our agency should start making phone calls around noon our time (Eastern Standard). Bret is sick in bed with the flu, and Grant and I are just going to have to burn off some energy out of the house this morning; if I stay, all I will do is check the clock every two minutes.

If you're looking for pictures and information, start checking with us after noon.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


There are so many good things going on in our lives right now, so many reasons to be happy. Tomorrow, we expect to see Gracie's little face. We're so excited to see our little girl, to gather more information about her, and to share our joy with our friends and family who have been so supportive on this journey.

In addition, today is Fathers' Day, and Bret and I are both blessed with fathers who love us and are exceptionally generous to us and our little family. Bret, himself, is a father of substance, a father who cares deeply for Grant and Grace and shows them that love on a day-in-day-out basis.

But, with all of the happiness swirling around us, we received hard news yesterday. My grandmother passed away after a hard-fought battle with leukemia. She was almost 89 years old, and, thankfully, I was able to visit with her just a few weeks ago on my trip out west. My grandmother and I were very close, and I am thankful that I have many, many, many memories of the two of us together. She was the person who took care of me when I was sick and my mom had to head off to work. She was the person who knew my favorite blanket (the soft blue one), my favorite foods (vegetable beef soup and pancakes with peaches), my favorite way to eat ice cream (chocolate syrup mixed with chunky peanut butter), my favorite way to play (cutting out toys from the Best catalog). My grandmother's history is a fascinating one, growing up in the deep south, living at the New Llano colony during the depression, taking a long train ride out to Los Angeles, and marrying my grandfather after being "matched" together by my grandfather's sister. I'm thankful that my grandmother's history is interesting. I'm thankful that while growing up in California that we lived so close to her, as it means that I saw my grandmother weekly. I'm thankful for the many ways she was generous with me, the many ways she made me feel special. I'm thankful that she got to meet Grant and play with him several times in her last years. But more than anything, I am thankful that my grandmother was a woman of faith because it makes this moment, the moment where I miss her, so much easier. I know she's in a better place, a better place that's not just a figure of speech. I know she's at peace, and I have complete confidence that we'll meet again someday.

I'm thankful that my grandmother had an unwavering trust in Christ. And as much as I miss her, and will continue to do so in the months and years ahead, I'm thankful that she's gone home.

Here are a few pictures from my recent visits out west... I can just hear my grandmother scolding me for using pictures of her, pictures she would look at and ask, "Do I really look like that?"

Friday, June 19, 2009


We should get our referral any hour now (with it being Friday, we might have to wait the weekend)! We're excited to see that little face; it's surreal that this four year journey is about to come to fruition. For our dear family and friends (and extended blog family), we'll be posting pictures and information the minute we are able to do so. Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

My not so fun morning

This morning, I had to convince Grant that the pantyliner he had found in my purse (which he had been wearing as a band aid all morning) was--indeed--not a band aid. There were tears as I pulled the pantyliner off his leg and threw it away in the trash.

Then, we went to an indoor play park (think McDonald's playland times ten [minus the dirt and discarded french fries]). Grant proceeded to climb up FOUR stories before he looked down, only to realize that one slip in that mesh netting could end in toddler death, and he started crying. After much coaxing (and finally sending a young girl up to help him), Grant came running toward me, just to fall, lip first, of course, and bust open his lip. After the blood, he proceeded to tell everyone that he "led with his lip."

Then, at Trader Joe's, I made the mistake of letting Grant push around the child-sized cart. Rookie mistake. Near the end our our trip, he bashed that cart right into a display of salsa. It wasn't good. At all. Let's just say there was glass (and plenty of salsa) in my shoes.

In other news, we should have information about Grace by next week (including her picture). We're so excited.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Job Security

A couple of days ago, I got a call from the resident Executive Assistant at our company asking what my title should be on my business cards. (My company is in the process of moving, therefore we all get new cards. They're great for jamming under the wobbly leg of a table at Denny's or throwing into a ceiling fan.)

Since I haven't known what my official title is in years, I told her I'd get back to her. I asked what my title was shown as on the official company org chart, and she informed me that my name was followed merely by a question mark, rather than a title. This is not good.

I'm no dummy, and I'm fully aware that being the question mark in a struggling economy can't be a good thing. My only hope is that somewhere in our office there sits a slightly less important exclamation point or even better, a frown... :(

I inquired with my boss to see what my title should be, and he told me to make something up. I thought about it for a few minutes, and after eliminating all deities and other blasphemous names, I came up with my selection. When I told the Exec. Assistant what I had decided on, she looked unimpressed. "Really? You don't want something longer?" Nope. This will do.

While I wait for my new cards to arrive (undoubtably with my first name featuring two "t's" instead of one) I need to get to the bottom of the question mark. I need to at least be a check mark to make it to Christmas.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


As I was driving home from work today, it occurred to me that teaching Driver's Ed might just be the worst job on the planet.

Actually, I had this thought as a yellow car with a driving school billboard on the top began to pull out in front of me on a county road. I was driving, shall we say, above the speed for which the road was designed. Additionally, it was raining gently onto the blacktop, effectively quadrupling my stopping distance.

As I slammed on my brakes, I saw two things. First, I saw a clueless, high-school aged male with the glimmer of my Hyundai headlights in his eyes. And I saw, presumably, the clueless one's instructor slumped down in the seat next to him as if acting in a Zapruder sequel. The man had obviously assumed the "go limp" position which would insure the least bodily damage after befriending the hood of my car.

I can only imagine the feeling of shock, terror, and complete lack of control felt by the instructor. I can't fathom how someone could put themselves through this feeling on a daily basis. Perhaps Driver's Ed teachers are recruited at bungee jumping locations or other "extreme" sports venues. Perhaps these individuals actually ENJOY the adrenaline rush of nearly being killed on an hourly basis. Not me, man. I couldn't own enough pairs of underwear to do that job.

After I avoided the accident (thanks to my own good Driver's Ed instruction -- the subject of another blog post in the future), I considered how terrifying teaching me to drive had to be for my dad. I can't imagine trying to teach Grant to drive. When we put him in one of those battery operated Jeep's, he simply pushes the pedal to the floor and lets his arms hang loose. No steering. I'm in deep, deep trouble.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Eating Outside the Box

There's no systematic, daddy engineer gene in Grant.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Last Bathroom Post of the Week

This morning, we had an all-employee meeting to discuss my company's impending move to a new office facility. One of the downsides to our new digs is that the men's restroom features a single urinal and a single toilet. This is problematic for a NUMBER of reasons (mostly #2), but I'll save that for another blog.

Incidentally, the women's restroom features five toilets. Keep in mind that that is one toilet per woman at our company, versus one toilet for 25 guys in the men's room.

During the staff meeting, I put forth the idea that we swap the signs on the men's and women's restrooms, thus eliminating the shortage of toilets for the dudes. We could then put M&Ms in the feminine hygiene products dispenser and turn the urinal in the ladies room into a contest.

At least I laughed.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

L.A. Wrap Up

On Sunday, we took Peter Pan's understudy (nee Grant) to Disneyland. Now you may be thinking, what two year old goes to BOTH Disneyland and Disney World within the same 6 month span? That would be an excellent question, and my only answer is GRANT.

As expected, he had a ridiculously good time. He got to ride on the Matterhorn, his first real roller coaster. And of course he got to ride many rides with NeNe (Erin's mom), which he loved.

Here's Grant sporting his "Honey, I Shrunk The Audience" 3-D glasses:

And here's Grant and me in the back car of a coaster...

I made two observations at Disneyland when comparing it to Disney World. First, the apparently "refurbed" Space Mountain at Disneyland is a VAST improvement on the one in Florida. It is MUCH darker than it's Disney World counterpart...far more exciting as a roller coaster. My other comment is that Disneyland's castle looks like a suburban home outfitted with turrets. It's tiny. I was pretty shocked when I saw it. Old Walt must have decided his studio apartment sized castle wasn't cutting it when he later built Disney World.

Here's Grant tuckered out in the rental car, post-Disney, with his favorite new appendage from Peter Pan:

On Monday, I dragged Erin around to some Los Angeles based Beach Boys sites. She was unimpressed. She apparently had no interest in seeing the house where Brian Wilson lay munching Animal Crackers in bed for several years or where Dennis Wilson hosted luaus with Charlie Manson. I guess we simply have different interests.

Next we headed over to the Santa Monica Pier to let Grant ride some more rides. The kid really is turning into a ride junkie. We bought him a pass to ride all of the little kid rides, and he had a blast. He kept the staff well entertained also.

Monday evening we had dinner at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica called Lares. I ordered a chicken dish in chipotle sauce which was indicated to be "very spicy." Having been lured by this before, only to find out it's "very spicy" if you think Taco Bell is "very spicy," I was shocked to discover that my meal was, indeed, freaking spicy. I couldn't feel my tongue or lips. I was drooling margarita onto my shirt it was so spicy. The flavor was excellent, but I almost couldn't keep it in my mouth long enough to enjoy it.

At the conclusion of our meal, our server came over, looked down at my plate with a big grin and said, "Not bad! Not bad!" I replied, "It bwas bewwy beweey gwood."

On Saturday we took a drive up the coast through Manhattan Beach and the world's largest "Say No To Drugs" display, better known as Venice Beach. Anyone who walks through Venice Beach and exits the other side thinking, "Man, I'd really be happier if I had a joint" is obviously not paying attention.

After Venice, we made our way to Tony P's for dinner in Marina Del Rey. As I looked out the window at all the boats, I noted to Erin that this was the exact set of docks where Dennis Wilson drowned. Having had enough Beach Boys trivia for a lifetime, she threatened to throw me overboard, so I kept my other facts to myself.

All in all, it was a nice trip, but I'm glad to be home. Erin and Grant return from Sacramento on Saturday...hopefully I can get the house cleaned up by then.

Stuffed Shorts

I had a long layover at the Atlanta airport yesterday on my way back from L.A., and it was made even longer when I voluntarily was bumped off my initial oversold flight. (Hey, they give me $200 to get into Indy 55 minutes later...not too bad...)

The extra hour gave me just enough time for a nature run, so I made my way to the nearest restroom. Let the eye-rolling commence.

Upon entering the first unused stall, I reached for a "seat protector" to protect my ever-delicate backside. I noticed there didn't appear to be any of them left, but when I looked into the dispenser, I noticed what appeared to be a cleaning rag stuffed into the bottom. I didn't really think anything about it until I recalled a story my uncle told me a while back.

Apparently he went into his place of employment one day and discovered that the bathroom had flooded. Upon further examination, it was determined that someone had stuffed a pair of slightly destroyed underpants into the TANK of the toilet. With my eyes now opened, I realized that the "cleaning rag" I had encountered at the Atlanta airport bathroom stall was actually somebody's underwear.

Again, I ask, am I missing something here? Is there a website called www.wheretostuffyourcrappyshorts.com that I haven't seen? For crying out loud, people. Have some dignity. If your soiled shorts are no longer viable as clothing, you can kindly throw them into the trash. Don't create a "natty underwear scavenger hunt" for the rest of us. Ick.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Pictures from California

We've done quite a bit on our mini-vacation to California, so I wanted to get some pictures up before I head home. I'll try to post more about what we did during my layover in Atlanta on Wednesday (thank you, Delta).

On Saturday, we had a wonderful breakfast with Erin's cousin Kathy, her mom, her husband, and their two adorable kids. Grant fell IN LOVE with their daughter Andrea. IN LOVE. We met them all at a little place called Dinah's in Culver City, which looked like a HoJo's from the 1960's. It was great. Here are some pics of Grant and his long lost cousins, Andrea and Justin.

The traffic during our stay has been very un-L.A. like. This was the view on our way to Disneyland on Sunday (perhaps someone warned them of our arrival).

Here are a couple of pictures of the Grantster at Disneyland. More to come...

Monday, June 01, 2009


Last night, Erin and I attended the "SpikeTV Guys Choice" awards. This might qualify as the most surreal night of my life, for any number of reasons. Since I can't really figure out a good way to interpret what I saw, I'll just provide some facts.

Fact: Mel Gibson did, in fact, ride in on a horse at the beginning of the show.

Fact: The waitresses wore black undergarments and open tuxedo shirts. Nothing else.

Fact: Ben Stiller, Halle Berry, Jaime Fox, Clint Eastwood, Clinton Tarantino, Robert Downy Jr., Mickey Rourke, Brad Pitt, and Ed Norton were all present.

Fact: Celebrities don't actually sit in their seats during these things. Apparently they are "placed" appropriately for when the camera shows them jumping up out of their seat to receive their award. Then they go home.

Fact: I was supposed to be in the green room backstage for part of the evening, but due to a change in security, I was not allowed back there.

Fact: I was the only person present wearing clothes from Target.

Fact: Erin was the only person there wearing clothes from Dress Barn.

Fact: At one point, there were more people surrounding our table who were NOT wearing pants than were.

It was a disturbing evening to say the least. Nothing in L.A. is real.